Most Americans know very little about the Spanish Civil War. During this violent time in Spain’s history, the anti-Catholic government openly persecuted Catholic churches, religious orders, and individuals. (For more information, see volume 6 of Warren Carroll’s excellent series, A History of Christendom) In August of 1936, this persecution was particularly brutal, which is why the Church’s calendar is particularly full of Spanish martyrs during that month.
On August 3, 1936, Blessed Salvador Ferrandis Segui* was arrested and shot because he was a Catholic priest. On August 8, 1936, Blessed Zephyrinus Jimenez Malla, a businessman and Dominican tertiary, was executed for hiding priests from the authorities. On August 19, 1936, nine Carmelite sisters were martyred together. On August 20, 1936, Blessed Maria Climent Mateu, a laywoman who was active in her church through the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and the Catholic Women’s Trade Union, was stabbed to death. The charges against these individuals had nothing to do with committing any serious crimes, but everything to do with their Catholic faith.
The Spanish Civil War and its persecution of Catholics lasted from 1934 to 1939, and it certainly was not limited August of 1936, although hatred of the faith was particularly virulent then. For example, the Church also celebrates Blessed Henry Morant Pellicer (a priest) on October 4, Blessed Joseph Llosa Balaguer (a layman) on October 7, Blessed Joaquin Pina Piazuelo (a religious brother) on November 10, and Blessed Jose Aparicio Sanz (a priest) on December 29, among many others.
Since some estimate that more than six thousand Catholic priests and religious were executed during the Spanish Civil War, along with many members of the laity, this list of blesseds is both too long (even one martyr is a tragedy) and too short (there are many more than can be listed here). But in the month of August we can remember that less than a century ago, it was a brutal time for the faithful Catholics of Spain.
* All the blesseds described in this post are included in my book, “Saints: Becoming an Image of Christ Every Day of the Year.”